Monday, December 15, 2014

Coconut Macaroons For Holiday Feasting, Naturally Gluten Free.

macaroons, coconnut macaroons, glutenfree
   I didn't get a lot of cookies growing up. My mother was a believer in fruit and cheese as snack food, not sugary stuff. Of course there was the time that I discovered her Mallomar stash in a high up cupboard.

   "What's this I asked."

   "Oh, that's not good for kids. It's adult, you wouldn't like the taste. Gimme that." It was quickly snatched back and put up even higher.

   Of course by the time I did get my mitts on a Mallomar, I knew she'd been lying to me. But, it's true I never developed a personal taste for really sweet stuff. When my mother did bake, she made "butter" cookies always featuring this stuff...

...and baked to the size and consistency of poker chips. I was the kid no one wanted to swap with at lunch time.
   My grandmothers were a different story. Both of them were excellent cooks and bakers, and they knew cookies! Butter cookies, meringues, those ladies knew treats. By far my favorite of all the things either of them made were macaroons. Italian macaroons aka Amaretti. I loved those little cookies that my relatives served with cups of espresso. Until I moved to LA and started hitting the delis, I didn't know about macaroons made with coconut. Italian macaroons are an almond based cookie, so when I first sampled the coconut variety, wow! I was hooked. But as hooked as I was, it had never occurred to me to attempt baking them.

   Most macaroon recipes call for sweetened coconut, which makes them extra rich and gooey. Something that sweet was not something that I was particularly crazy about keeping in the house. Also some macaroons, have a tendency to be sticky and greasy. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's not what I was looking for. Then I stumbled on a recipe from the oldest continually operating confectionary in Paris, A la mere de Famille This place has been churning out the sweet stuff for the last 250 years. They have to know what they're doing. Their recipe for macaroons looked amazing, and surprisingly did not call for sweetened coconut. I knew I had to give these cookies a try.
   So, yesterday I set out to make my first batch of coconut macaroons. It was a lot easier than I  thought it would be. There is a minimum of ingredients here, and just about the only time consuming part is the 2 hours one has to wait for the macaroons to "dry" before putting them into the oven. Aside from that, it's a really easy recipe, and one that's going into my permanent file.

Coconut Macaroons

Here's What You Need:
3 egg whites
1 cup plus 2 Tbs sugar
2 1/2 cups of shredded unsweetened coconut

Here's What To Do:
Put the egg whites in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.

Add in the sugar.

Heat a sauce pan filled with one inch water on the stove at medium heat.
Place the bowl or the stand mixer bowl in the water.

Heat the egg whites and the sugar whisking constantly.
Keep an instant read thermometer nearby, as you want to get the mixture you're whisking up to 115 degrees.

Not there yet. Keep whisking.
As soon as the egg whites and sugar reach 115, take your bowl or your stand mixer bowl and using a beater with a whisk attachment at high speed, start whipping the stuff up.

You want to get the mixture fluffy, voluminous and cool to the touch. This takes about 10 minutes, so this is where a stand mixer really comes in handy as I discovered.
When your egg white sugar mixture is ready, add the shredded coconut.

Fold it in gently with a spatula.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
Drop 1 Tbs. size  mounds of batter onto the cookie sheets.

Now the waiting period. Set the macaroons out to "dry" at room temperature for 2 hours.

When you're about ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Bake the macaroons, one tray at a time for 4 minutes.

When they're lightly browned, they're done.

Take them put and set them on a cooling rack and pop the next batch in.

We've been invited to a Chanukah dinner with friends on Tuesday so I was giving these cookies a test run. Needless to say, they made the cut.

macaroons,  glutenfree

This started out being a LOT more macaroons. More like this. Store these macaroons in an airtight container for up to 2 days. But the odds of being able to keep them around for that long.... fuggedaboutit.

macaroons, gluten free

   So there it is. Macaroons don't have to be tricky to be good, and these are damn good, otherwise those guys over in Paris wouldn't have been in business for so long. Coming up next, some Christmas cookies, and if it's cold and rainy outside, it's Idilli and sambar time inside! Follow along on Twitter at @kathygori

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tea For Two, Or Three, Or More? Try These Cardamom Mava Cakes for Holiday Entertaining.

   I have to admit when I think of Indian food, and I do - a lot -the word cupcake has never come to mind. The cupcake craze in the US seemed to be everywhere a few years back, epitomized by  Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell's short, Lazy Sunday. After that,  Cupcakes seemed to jump the shark or get eaten by it or whatever.

   For better or worse, cupcakes have receded back into the rest of the bakery goods department being elbowed aside by stuff such as cronuts, crumbnuts, and God help us, pretzel croissants. But one place that still reveres the cupcake is Mumbai and that's when I first heard about Mava, or Mawa Cakes earlier this year. A number of Indian food writers had been talking about them, photographing them and baking them. Bawi Bride, SinfullyspicyMy Diverse Kitchen, and Eat and Dust had all featured Mava cakes in various forms and I was eager to try my hand at them.

   If you've never heard of Mava cakes (I hadn't until just this year) they are a delicious, buttery, cardamomy cake that orginated in the Parsi, (Iranian) cafes in India just a tad over a century ago. The orginator and most famous purveyor of these treats was a place called B. Merwans in Mumbai.

Earlier this year they announced they were closing up shop due to building renovations, and that's when the Mava hit the fan. Anyone who'd ever enjoyed these sweet treats started writing about them. Mava cakes were everywhere in the Indian food media.
   Once I heard about them of course I had to try them. The sticking point for me seemed to be the mava in the mava cake. Mava, mawa, either way, is khoya. Khoya is made by cooking milk down slowly. You can make it or buy it in Indian markets, or as I've done in the past, use dense, full fat ricotta as a substitute. However if you've got an hour to spare and you'd like to make your own khoya, it's not very difficult at all, plus it keeps really well in the fridge or freezer. Once made, the mava is added to the batter which is just like any other cake batter and can be baked in a variety of sizes and shapes. Cupcakes, layer, whatever the heart desires. So, remember you can use ricotta as a substitute but if you'd like to try making your own mava, here's how to do it. The rest of the recipe follows.

Cardamom Mava Cakes

Here's What You Need:
For Mava
 2 cans of full fat evaporated milk
1 cup of whipping cream

Here's What to Do:
Pour the evaporated milk...

...and whipping cream into a pot.

Mix it together well and bring it to a boil.

When it's boiling, turn it down to high medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring to make sure to doesn't stick and burn.
It'll start to thicken.
Lower the heat to medium low and continue to stir it till it thickens some more.

Cook it down for another 10 minutes, till it thickens further.
Now lower the heat to low and cook for about another 10 minutes when it's the thickness of thick pudding, dude, you've got mava!

This recipe only calls for using 1/2 cup of mava so put what's left int he fridge for a short while  or in a tight container in the freezer where it can safely stay for about 3 months.
Each batch of mava is good for three batches of cakes.

The Mava Cakes

Here's What You Need:
1/2 cup of mava (room temperature)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
a pinch of salt
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar
1 and 1/4 cup of flour
6 Tbs of milk

Here's What To Do: 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly oil whatever pan you're going to be using to bake your mava cakes in. I used silicone molds so no greasing required.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
Select a few whole green cardamom pods.

Crack them in the mortar, toss the husks and remove the seeds and start grinding them.

When you have 1/4 teaspoon worth, add it to the flour, salt, and baking powder mixture. Set it aside.
Using a stand mixer or a hand beater, add  butter to a bowl.

Toss in the sugar...

...and 1/2 cup of mava.

Beat  them together at medium speed until they're light and fluffy.

Turn the beater speed to low and add the eggs one at a time.

Make sure each of them is completely mixed into the batter before adding the next.
Keep the speed on low and add in the flour, baking powder, salt , and cardamom mixture.

As that's mixing together, add in the 6 Tbs of milk.
When you have a nice smooth batter, pour it into whatever you're baking it in.
Fill the cupcake cups or molds only about halfway as the mava cakes will rise.
Pop them into the oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes.
When they're done unmold them onto a baking rack.

These are delicious buttery little cakes, fragrant with cardamom. You can also add lemon, or orange zest, cashews or pistachios to the batter.

   If you've  already made your mava or you have ricotta to add to the batter instead, these bake up quickly and easily making them the perfect little snack when holiday visitors come calling. Coming up next more Indian treats and gluten free and vegan sides for the festive table. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ring in The Holidays With Gluten Free Oven-Fried Onion Rings.

   I'm sitting here at my kitchen island with a pot of vegetable chowder simmering on the stove, rain pinging the skylights and an almost December chill in the air. Every year after Thanksgiving I feel as though someone fired off the Holiday Cannon and we're off to the races. Around our house we're dealing with Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, New Years Eve, Alans' birthday, and our anniversary. That's a lot. Add to that, a new house and all the other medical stuff this year has brought, I've got a full plate and I haven't even made my way to the chocolate fountain at the end of the buffet.

   This is the time of year of tempting treats, forbidden foods. The time when we go big or go home. One of the big requests around here once the weather gets chilly are onion rings. Onion Rings always make me think of Dinah's Restaurant in LA. Dinah's is one of our favorite places and we've spent many happy late night hours there. Even if you've never been to Dinahs, chances are you've seen it plenty, as it's been in a million films.

Here Lingonberry Pancakes are being ordered among the many mistakes this crew made, the least of which is not ordering Dinah's famous onion rings.

   Now, onion rings are a pretty straightforward thing to make, no trick there, but if you're gluten free, there's the rub. What do you coat them in if you can't eat gluten, and then there's the frying guilt. Yes, fried tastes great but if you truly want a guilt-free experience, try oven frying. Done right it works great! Since I have a lot of friends who can't eat gluten, I do a lot of gluten free cooking and I'm always looking for things to use that most people haven't heard of. To do that, it's always good to go to cuisines that have a lot of naturally gluten-free dishes. Indian cuisine is one of the best for this purpose and one item works great for gluten free breading and that is Poha aka Flattened Rice.

Think of it as the Eastern version of bread crumbs. It's available in most Asian and Indian Markets and is one of my kitchen staples. Frying, breading whatever... I grab the poha. It just made sense when I was making onion rings the other day to bread them with poha even though no one at lunch was gluten free, I wanted to show an alternative.
   These oven fried onion rings are easy to make but do take a bit of planning. They taste better of the onions are tenderized by soaking them in buttermilk for a few hours before cooking. Overnight is even better. So if you have onions and buttermilk give this a whirl, and if you're gluten free, break out the poha!

Oven Fried Onion Rings

Here's What You Need:
2 large onions cut into thick rings
1 qt. buttermilk
4 egg whites
2/3 cup  gluten free sorghum flour
2/3 cup of gluten free corn meal
1 cup of poha
3/4 tsp salt
any other seasonings you wish to taste, I used Kashmiri chili

Here's What To Do:
Slice onions evenly and thickly and put them into a baking dish filled with buttermilk.

Put them into the fridge to chill for a few hours or overnight.
When you're ready to make your rings,  preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
Separate 4 egg whites.

Put them into a small bowl and lightly beat. set them aside.
In another bowl mix together the sorghum flour...

...and the corn meal.

Take 1 cup of poha.

Pour it in a bit of warm water and let it soak for five minutes. This softens it up.

After 5 minutes drain the poha.

Gently press the excess water out of it.

Add the drained poha to the bowl containing the sorghum and corn meal flour.
Add salt...

...and seasonings to the flour poha mixture.

Mix the flours and poha all together.

Dip your buttermilk soaked onion rings into the eggwhite.

Then dip them into the flour poha mixture.

Lay them on the cookie sheets.
When the rings are all ready, brush them with a bit of vegetable oil and pop them into the oven.

Let them bake for about 15 minutes, them take them out and flip them over and brush the other side with a bit of oil. Put them back into the oven.

Give them another 15 minutes.
When they're brown and crispy, they're done!
Serve them up and enjoy!

Gluten free and guilt free!

Coming up next, visions of mawa cakes dance in my head and I gotta have 'em!
Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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